Yom Kippur begins today. This is the day of atonement, the day to set things right by the world. To ask for and to grant forgiveness. To bring yourself back into balance with others. I had a very different post scheduled for today, but…
I was eating my morning oatmeal and reading the local paper. I turned to the middle to continue an article on mask mandates and saw a friend’s face at the top of the obituaries. At first I didn’t think I was right. That couldn’t be the same Gerard. I even looked up the funeral home memorial. And it was.
He was one of the first friends I made after moving here. He would come into the shop just to talk about all sorts of things. He had so many wonderful stories. He knew seemingly everybody in Washington County and all the details of every life — funny, touching, sordid and sometime scary. He was unfailingly kind and had a smile for every day, but he was never saccharine. He had a wicked sense of humor. He talked, but he also listened. I feel like humanity can’t afford to lose anyone with that rare skill these days.
He was not that old, but he was in somewhat poor health. I think he was also lonely perhaps. Else why spend so much time in the garden center? He had fallen in the grocery store a few weeks ago and hurt his hip. I hadn’t seen him much since then, but I assumed this was just because he was staying off his feet as commanded by the emergency room doctors. It may have been just that keeping him away from the shop, but staying off your feet these days often means staying alone. If you are at all prone to depression, that isolation on top of an injury is deadly.
When I saw the obituary I was shocked though — and somewhat guilty. I think I might have been a bit short with him the last time he was in. It was a day of so much work that I didn’t have time to talk. I found out from my boss that it was the same for her. It seems that perhaps neither of us made time for him in these last few weeks. And it turns out that these were his last few weeks. There is nothing I can do to make up for that. There is no atonement.
I’m sad now and angry at myself. And I’d just like to remind everyone to be kind to everyone you love. Be present for others. Listen. Make time for them. Because we are ephemeral beasts and we don’t have all the time in the world. I will miss Gerard’s stories and his smile. And I will probably never quite forgive myself for not making his last days a bit less lonely.
for 15 September 2021
You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #atonement. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person, so it has to work harder to convey meaning. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.
If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!
If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… atonement.
©Elizabeth Anker 2021